Eleanor Johnson Andersen (1911-2011)

Eleanor J. Andersen, of Arden Hills, Minnesota, passed away peacefully with family present in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on January 12, 2011. She is preceded in death by her husband of 72 years, Former Governor Elmer L. Andersen, and by her son, Anthony L. Andersen. She is survived by her son, Julian L. Andersen (Jamie) and her daughter, Emily E. Andersen; by her grandchildren, Amy E. Andersen (Tim Wilson), Nathan L. Andersen, and Benjamin L. Andersen; by her great-grandchildren,  Shelby K. Wilson and Caleb J. Wilson; by nieces and nephews and their families; by cousins and their families in the United States, Sweden, and Norway; and by cherished friends.

Mrs. Andersen was born in Minneapolis on March 28, 1911, the first child of Gustav A. and Elizabeth Johnson, Swedish immigrants. She maintained a deep, life-long closeness with her siblings, and later, with their spouses and children: Edith, her sister, who married Stanley W. Holmquist, and her brother, Arvid, who married Elsie Hill. They predeceased her, as did a brother, Oscar, who died at birth. Her extended family in childhood was close, also, as two maternal aunts and their husbands and families lived a few houses away. Mrs. Andersen grew up speaking Swedish before she spoke English, and she maintained a correspondence in Swedish with her parents’ families in Sweden, visiting them in Sweden several times—once, traversing the Atlantic on the Lusitania. A speed-skater as a girl, she also enjoyed music, which culminated in attending music school and teaching piano privately. She began to attend concerts at Northrup Auditorium in 1929, and her enjoyment of music and support of concerts endured throughout her life, as did her love of reading. She attended Minnesota College and completed a University of Minnesota undergraduate history degree in 1939 with a minor in music.

After her marriage on September 1, 1932, she was a constant, wise intellectual partner with her husband, and clearly, she was the great love of his life.  During each of her husband’s phases in business, government, and organizational leadership, she assisted him to the degree that he often said that he accomplished what he did in his life because she was his wife. In this regard, she served as First Lady of the State of Minnesota from 1961-1963. Throughout her life, she accepted with quiet strength the rigors of her role as the wife of a man very involved in his business career and in community activities; yet, to the end of her life, she also retained her individual identity and the freedom to politely speak her mind. Together they shared particular interests in education, libraries, local plants and animals, and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. They kept decades-old friendships and club memberships from their years in St. Anthony Park, and they also maintained close ties with Mr. Andersen’s family from Michigan: two brothers, their wives, one sister, her husband, and their families.

On her own, Mrs. Andersen was an active board member of the Children’s Home Society, a board member and historian for the Schubert Club, and a board member of ECM Publishers. Additionally, she was a member of the Weavers’ Guild from its earliest years and became an accomplished weaver. She also valued her membership in the educational service sorority, PEO. Mrs. Andersen’s religious life as a Christian was important to her. She first attended Grace Lutheran Church in Minneapolis with her parents, and subsequently St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church in St. Paul. Throughout her life, those who knew her in each of her activities always remarked on her dignified manner, her unfailing courtesy, her Swedish blue eyes, and her beautiful, graceful appearance.

A memorial service will occur on Friday, January 21, 2011, at 1 PM, at St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church, 2323 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN  55108. The interment will be private. Memorials preferred to Children’s Home Society & Family Services, 1605 Eustis St., St. Paul, MN 55108, or the The Schubert Club, 75 West 5th St. , 302 Landmark Center, St. Paul MN 55102. Arrangements made with Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapels (612) 781-1999.

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